Poudre River Arts Center Drawing in Artists, Public
Arts Alivewire: Fall ‘06 Issue
By Deborah Russell
Fort Collins’ newest arts venue is open and stirring interest among artists and art lovers alike. Poudre River Art Center, located at 400 N. College at the north end of downtown Fort Collins, now has an executive committee comprised of several creative and energized personalities, including: Sonja Schuh, Amelia Caruso, Bev Perina, Donna Visocky, Rene Wyndham, and Mike Jensen. Each is dedicated to allocating their time and energy to promote the new arts center.
While open only a couple months, the arts center is already drawing people in and that’s expected to gain momentum as the fall unfolds. “The exhibits on First Friday are really pulling in a crowd,” says board member Caruso. “Our next big event is October 13, which is our Grand Opening Party. We are looking forward to this event and are planning an enormous Christmas show and sale.”
And a new logo will soon be up to help identify the center. “We had a great response from our community’s design companies for our call to assist us with the Poudre River Art Center logo,” Caruso said. “We are looking forward to unveiling the winning entry very soon.”
Caruso said the new center “is really starting to come together and come alive. The gallery space is freshly painted (generously donated by Dave Scott, and Kwal Paint after Precision Painting Specialists, Inc.) and it is wonderfully appealing.”
And it’s becoming a beehive of activity. Open Stage Theatre has used the space to rehearse downstairs and resident artist Katherine Skaggs holds her workshops in the evenings. Donna Visocky and Debra Becker, co-directors of Arts Alive, have an office on the second floor and get to share the facility with many local artists who can work and create on site.
The arts center is also enhancing the neighborly feeling of downtown Fort Collins and helping make it more appealing for visitors. “Along with the executive committee, each resident artist plays a large role in bringing their energy and the Fort Collins community together through their promotion,” Caruso says. “More and more people from Fort Collins and the surrounding communities are coming to the center and are excited about the trend the center is setting, regarding the revitalization of Old Town Fort Collins and North College Avenue. Everyone appears to be on board, from individual artists to city and community leaders.”
A total of 30 local artists are now signed up to use the center, including Jonny and Erin Wright, Ayleen Burns, Alisa Raines, Carol Schinkel, Bob Matthews, Shelby Robinson, Mikel Balogh, Jan Allen, Nadine Preston, Katherine Skaggs, Amelia Caruso, Judith Goeke, Erik Greer, Adrian Davis, Roxanne Griffin, Lynn Fecteau, Laurie Warren, Kathi Dougherty, Lorri Acott-Fowler, Gregory Mayse, Barbara Moore, Maya Dobroth and more.
“The Poudre River Arts Center is a step in the right direction.” Caruso says. “This place is not the end-all for arts in Fort Collins. More people will follow and there will be grander plans, but I believe the center is changing the perception of poor, starving artists. We are helping create for ourselves an opportunity to promote and sell our work by getting in on the ground floor.”
Pent-up demand for studio space is obvious now that the center is open. Caruso said many local artists are on a waiting list for space, though it appears (according to the proposed schedule) they may have to hang around for several months and quite possibly a couple years before spaces become available.
Caruso believes the Poudre River Arts Center could be the first in several additional arts venues coming to Fort Collins. “The more momentum our community builds with art venues such as CoCoa, The University Center for the Arts, the Lincoln Center, Bas Bleu Theater and the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Nonesuch Theater and Carousel Dinner Theater, the easier it will be for the next generation of arts to move with increased momentum that could possibly drive the city of Fort Collins to be on par with artist communities like Santa Fe.”
Caruso said the center aims to be a place where local artists can thrive and the public can show their support for them. “It’s a public venue and the people of our community are able to see our growth and evolution. This is a venue where artists market and sell their work. We make a product and when the product sells, it allows us to continue in our passion to create and produce. There is no better way to support a growing arts community and our artists than by buying local artwork and tickets to dance and music recitals, concerts and plays.”
One of the best features of the new arts center, Caruso says, is how it is increasing camaraderie among artists, who generally lead solitary creative lives. “The camaraderie is extremely important. As artists what we do has a tendency to be solitary. Being in a space with others breaks me out of that mold. Plus, working with creative people is incredibly inspirational. It encourages me to think outside the box.”